Yayoi Kusama is largely considered one of the most influential living artists produced by Japan and is one of the artists to give birth to the pop art, minimalist art, and feminist art movements. She was born the 22nd of March, 1929, to an upper middle class family and began to paint at the age of 10. However, she experienced resistance from her parents to her wish to continue pursuing art as a career rather than marry and start a family. Her mother even took away her canvases and art supplies.
In spite of the familial opposition she experienced, Yayoi Kusama went to study art in Kyoto at the age of 19. She became increasingly frustrated with the constraints of the traditional art taught there and in 1957 moved to New York City, USA, after becoming interested in the European and American avant-garde art movements of the time. She quickly became influential in the pop art movement and her work was both shown alongside and helped influence Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and George Segal in the 1960s. She came to the public’s attention for organizing body festivals in the late 60s where the nude participants were covered in polka dots.
In 1973 Kusama returned to Japan. The art movement and culture there was much more conservative and she had to completely rebuild her career as she was unknown in her native country. While still practicing art, she became an art dealer, but her business ultimately failed. In 1977 she voluntarily admitted herself to a psychiatric hospital after experiencing increasing episodes of mental distress. She continues to live at the hospital, but every day works in her studio with her assistants and continues to create art.
Kusama is well known for her polka dot art, both in the forms of paintings and installation art, but she has also experimented with film and writing. The film “Kusama’s Self-Obliteration” (1968), which she produced and starred in, won prizes at two international film festivals. She has produced one book of poetry (titled “7”) and eight novels. Kusama is probably best known for her surreal, interactive installation art which continues to be shown in galleries and museums worldwide.